The Fighting Irish were back on the field with two practices open to the media in recent days. Here's our practice reports from their workouts.
First some big picture notes. The team continues to work on third down on both sides of the ball. The defense has really been using the 4-3 a lot but they aren't working 1st and 2nd down sets too much right now.
We found out a couple days ago that OG Christian Lombard (wrist) and WR Will Mahone (foot) will miss the rest of spring after having surgery. In today's presser head coach Brian Kelly said they'd both be out 4-6 weeks. Interestingly, he also mentioned that it will be 'tough' for someone to unseat Lombard at right guard.
Two incoming recruits were on hand at practice in tight end Nic Weishar and linebacker Nyles Morgan.
After 5 practices there doesn't appear to be any quarterback controversy as Everett Golson continues to work exclusively with the 1st-team offense. Although most observers have commented on the difference as passers between Golson and Zaire there still needs to be more of a comfort level developed between Everett and his targets.
Kelly says QB dynamic isn’t one where Everett is teaching Malik the playbook, indicates there’s a competitive edge between both.— Irish Illustrated (@NDatRivals) March 22, 2014
Kelly said he doesn't intend on naming a starter anytime soon but it would be shocking if it's anyone other than Golson. I think it's a good thing that Zaire is battling hard and that there is an edge to this competition.
We haven't had a ton of info on the 3-man rotation in the backfield, although Kelly continues to throw praise the way of Greg Bryant.
"Power. Power. Powerful." Kelly on Greg Bryant’s addition to the offense. "This kid’s powerful. He’s a powerful back."— Irish Illustrated (@NDatRivals) March 22, 2014
When asked to describe the other backs Kelly called Folston "shifty" and McDaniel "gutsy," which makes sense. During large portions of the scrimmage Bryant took McDaniel's place. It's evident that the staff is really trying to get Bryant comfortable in a large role with Folston remaining the top back.
In the middle of the week Kelly threw some praise at Fuller and over the weekend he shined a light on Corey Robinson.
BK - the receiver I've been most pleased with is Corey Robinson. He does exactly what I ask him to do. He's fun to coach.— Irish Sports Daily (@ISDUpdate) March 22, 2014
In the tiny glimpses we've seen out of Robinson it seems like he's getting more physical off the line and working on his burst in small spaces. If he can continue to improve this aspect of his game he'll be a major weapon in the fall.
Another player who continues to impress is Amir Carlisle. However, we heard the same things last year too and Kelly mentioned he's still trying to find some consistency at his new position. Don't sleep on C.J. Prosise who is working in the slot and saw a bunch of snaps with the 1st-team.
The pecking order remains Koyack, Smythe, and Heuerman with the senior Koyack really impressing. All three continue to be used detached off the line as well.
The starting unit remains Stanley-Elmer-Hegarty-Hanratty-McGlinchey with Lombard out with his injury. On the second unit it is Bivin-Hanratty-Harrell-Montelus-McGovern. For now Hanratty is pulling double-duty on both lines.
I was somewhat surprised that Kelly thinks it will be tough for someone to beat out Lombard at right guard. Mostly because Hanratty has performed well when called upon and psychologically I would have thought Kelly would be better off leaving that spot up for grabs.
So, if we're going to pencil in Lombard at right guard we already have a good sense of what this offensive line is going to look like in the fall. If Hanratty (or anyone else) isn't beating out Lombard the only other big question is if Nick Martin returns as the starting center once he's back from injury.
As the defense continues to work hard on 4-man fronts we're hearing some positive news out of a couple young players. Isaac Rochell, now up to 287 pounds, was singled out by Kelly in his press conference.
Kelly on DE Isaac Rochell: "He is starting to physically develop." Is stronger and has made gains in the weight room since the fall.— Blue and Gold News (@BGInews) March 22, 2014
Also of note was true freshman early enrollee Andrew Trumbetti getting some work with the starting unit in place of Romeo Okwara. As they are working on third down sets I believe this is the coaching staff searching for some better pass rushing on the edge.
This position continues to be full of intrigue and interest. When Kelly said a few months ago that the team had athletes to move around and contribute he wasn't kidding.
For example, during Saturday's practice it was John Turner working with the first team at the weak-side linebacker spot and James Onwualu working with the second team. Welcome to the BVG era of speed with 215 pounds linebackers roaming around!
Not too much info on the corners coming out of the weekend practices. Russell and Luke continue to be the starters with the former receiving a lot of praise. I think the odds are pretty high that Russell is one of the team captains this year.
It's obvious that the staff notices the ceiling with Max Redfield and that even with some struggles mentally they are determined to get him prepared to start in the fall.
Kelly on Max Redfield’s talent, "crazy, crazy, crazy ability" Says his knowledge base was "zero" before the spring started.— Irish Illustrated (@NDatRivals) March 22, 2014
Also of note: Former Irish safety and current graduate assistant Kyle McCarthy has been given a ton of responsibility working with the safeties.
UND.com Practice Video
- At 0:24 we see Corey Robinson snatch a ball from Cole Luke. You know how he do it.
- Nice in and out move at 0:30 by Justin Brent against Rashad Kinlaw. Also, good job adjusting to the back shoulder throw.
- Is that our first ever look at Jacob Matuska at 0:40? Boy, he's really long and he's going to have to keep his pads down on the interior.
- Nice catch in traffic at 0:54 by Amir Carlisle.
- Holding or great physicality at 0:59 by Russell on Robinson? A little bit of both, I think.
- At 1:43 we see new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder giving some instruction to John Turner.
- Nice hit by Eilar Hardy on Durham Smythe at 2:25.
Irish Illustrated Practice Video
- I'm really impressed by C.J. Prosise's footspeed at 220 pounds as seen at 0:14. He's a really good athlete.
- What kind of throw was that from Zaire at 0:19?
- At 0:24 we see a rare glimpse of redshirt freshman Torii Hunter Jr going up against Farley.
- Great move at 0:59 by Will Fuller getting away from Russell.
- Catch Radius doing his thing at 1:30.
- Brian VanGorder has a loud voice.
PLAYER INTERVIEWS FROM FRIDAY
Brian Kelly 4/22/14 Presser